A Walk Through Highgate In Camden

By: Archy Ash

At the end of the antiques area is an authentically Victorian pub, the Camden Head (1899). To the left, Upper Street and Essex Road fork at Islington Green headed by a crumbling 19C statue of the chief promoter of the New River Sir Hugh Middleton by John Thomas (1862), with a shady garden behind.

Take the right fork up Essex Road: there are still a few antique shops here but they are down market by comparison with Camden Passage. Turn left at Cross Street. Here ascend the characteristic raised pavement passing cool and refined 18C houses on both sides. At Upper Street turn right we shall be back here later to see the opposite side of the road past the Town Hall (1922) in which you may be able to visit the Islington Museum Gallery, with some local history exhibits.

Then continue to Canonbury Lane on the right. Turning down it. take a look to the left down Compton Terrace (early 19C) long and dignified looking over gardens which separate it from Upper Street. In the middle of the terrace is the startlingly dominant Union Chapel, built for the Congregationalists by James Cubitt, showing Victorian religious self-confidence at its most extreme. It is now a music venue.

Going along Canonbury Lane you come almost immediately to Canonbury Square, an extremely handsome development of 1805-30 though with a too formal garden. It was severed by Canonbury Road, which was laid out at the same time. On the southwest side the houses are on a raised terrace with a palace front, which is Bedford Square.
Walk along the north side and cross Canonbury Road to locate at no. 39a Northampton Lodge a detached villa now housing the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. It is essential to stop here for a coffee, at least, in the excellent cafe but more important to see the tine collection of Italian 20C art collected by the American Eric Estorick and his wife Salome. It is particularly strong on the fascinating and now somewhat frightening Futurist movement launched by Filippo Marinetti in 1909. Works by Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Lialla and Gino Severini are permanently displayed, as well as temporary exhibitions.

On the east side of the square looming up inescapably, is Canonbury Tower, the oldest building in the area, which formed the northwest corner of Canonbury House a manor house built on an ecclesiastical site reallocated at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The tower is perhaps mid-16C. There is still plenty of interior decoration of the period to be seen. Open only by a pre-booked weekday appointment.

Down to the right you can see Canonbury Place, with slightly sickly green stucco, and Alwyne Villas stretching down over the former gardens of Canonbury House. You could detour to the bottom to see Alwyne Road with big later Italianate villas overlooking the New River, now rearranged in a special riverside walk with Canonbury Grove (1820s) on the other side.

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